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Is Amit Shah’s LS speech about Delhi violence a chilling sign of things to come?

Home Minister mentions planned conspiracy, blames mobs from UP, pats police’s back and says facial recognition technology being used to identify attackers

Sabrangindia 12 Mar 2020

Amit Shah

More than two weeks after violence first broke out in Delhi’s North East district, Home Minister Amit Shah, who directly controls the Delhi Police, made a speech in the Parliament where he made a series of self-serving statements and claims and one chilling revelation.
 

Whose ‘conspiracy’ is it anyway?

Shah called Delhi violence a “well planned conspiracy”. This is interesting given how it was the minority community that bore an unfair brunt of the violence that clearly appears to have been targeted and carefully calibrated against them. However, it is noteworthy that the clashes broke out only after BJP leader Kapil Mishra’s indirect call to arms. It was Mishra who had issued an ultimatum to the Delhi Police to evict people protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in three days, threatening otherwise his supporters will take to the streets.

Delhi Minorities Commission chairman Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan who visited violence-affected areas on March 2, 2020, observed in his report, “We found extensive damage to Muslim houses, shops and workshops everywhere we went. At Bhajanpura, we found that Muslim-owned shops, like a travel agency and motorcycle showroom, were looted and torched while Hindu-owned shops were left untouched.” The report said, “At C-429 in gali no. 29 of Khajuri Khas, we saw the gutted Masjid Fatima where people had taken refuge in the belief that mobs will not attack a religious place.” It added, “In the same gali, there is house no. C/1/28/413 which belongs to Prem Chand, Delhi Police ISI who had let it to a Muslim family since 2007. The house was torched after the family fled the place. The rioters returned later to burn it once again.”

Is Shah accepting that it was Mishra’s men who planned and executed the mob violence? And if that is the case, why are there allegations of hundreds of Muslim men, including teenage boys being picked up, arrested or even detained without a record from areas such as Khureji Khas, Mustafabad, Chand Bagh and other minority-dominated neighbourhoods? Also, wasn’t it Shah himself who had dubbed the riots spontaneous on February 25? Moreover, if it was indeed a conspiracy, then was it intelligence failure on part of Shah’s ministry and the police that allowed the violence to break out and continue unabated for at least three whole days?


Alien invasion theory?

Many riot-affected people have repeatedly said that the mobs that attacked them were of people who did not belong to their neighbourhoods. Shah also seemed to support this ‘alien invasion theory’ and claimed that 300 people from neighbouring Uttar Pradesh had been brought in to fuel the violence. Does this mean even BJP’s blue-eyed boy next door, UP Chief Minister Adityanath didn’t see it coming? Did he too fail too fail to prevent people from his state from engaging in inter-state cross-border mob-terrorism?

Or does Shah secretly hope that the ‘invaders’ and ‘outsiders’ will conveniently be presumed to belong to a particular community and thus be conveniently used to perpetuate convenient stereotypes about the alleged perpetrators of the violence when BJP’s own men such as Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma and Kapil Mishra are the ones who misused their power, position, influence and most importantly words to demonise and vilify people of the minority community by dubbing them as ‘traitors’ who deserved to be shot?


Cops can’t do no wrong?

Shah praised the Delhi Police for swiftly bringing the violence under control. But here’s the shocker. Shah claims that the violence lasted only 36 hours, whereas ground reality is that mob violence began on February 23, 2020 and began to dissipate only on the evening of February 26… a period much longer than Shah’s 36 hours. Moreoever, as far as the role of Delhi Police goes, there have been several allegations of police complicity in the violence. There are also allegations of police raiding minority neighbourhoods to arrest and even detain without any record Muslim men and teenaged boys accusing them of participating in the riots.

The most shocking case was that of 45-year-old Usman Saifi who had spent night and day guarding a local temple in Gali number 18 of Mustafabad’s Nehru Vihar during the riots. But late on Sunday night police picked him up and took him to Dyalpur police station. Saifi has been accused of taking part in the violence, but according to his family and neighbours, it was he who diligently guarded the Hindu shrine fearing worse repercussions should any harm come to it.

A few days ago, a fact-finding report by Lawyers Against Atrocities made similar allegations of police targeting Muslim men and detaining them on baseless charges in the Khureji Khas area. The report had said, “While conducting raids in the locality, police are reported to have discharged their weapons twice at the entrance of the Jama Masjid Road. That evening, when lawyers arrived at Jagatpuri Police Station to enquire about the arrested, the police were verbally and physically abusive towards them. More arrests are reported to have occurred on the night of 26th January 2020 and then over the next two days, with police raiding homes of numerous residents and arbitrarily picking up people, including several minors, from the streets.”

But Shah’s speech in Parliament did not even acknowledge these allegations and completely glossed over them as he focused instead on virtually lionizing the role of his boys in khaki, making one wonder if there will ever be any accountability?


Mota Bhai is watching?

But Amit Shah’s greatest shocker came when he said facial recognition software was being used to identify the rioters and mobsters. Interestingly, Shah decided to give a secular spin to this Orwellian move saying, “We have received thousands of videos. We are using Face identification to find accused. It is a software so it does not differentiate on the basis of religion.”

But Shah set the cat among the pigeons when he said, “We have also fed Aadhaar and driving license data into this software, which has identified 1,100 people.” He added, “We entered Voter ID data and other information available with the government to identify people who were involved in the riots. Arrests will be made only in cases where there is hard evidence against a person.”

According to News18, Shah was referring to Advanced Facial Recognition Software (AFRC), a tool developed by INNEFU Labs, an Indian startup that works on artificial intelligence tools. This software was acquired by Delhi Police back in 2018 in an exercise that aimed to identify missing children and catch criminals involved in child trafficking and other related acts.

Founder Tarun Wig, explained in an interview with News18, “What AFRS does is detect and extract the faces out of an image. Every face is then converted to a vector of 512 values. Then, the software calculates the shortest distance between two vectors in a chosen database, and the closest matches are typically the accurate recognition of a face.”

However, facial recognition software has also drawn sharp criticism globally as many times it identifies innocent people are criminals. Privacy activists have long warned about the possible violation of privacy and misuse of Aadhaar data by the government. One wonders if this use of facial recognition software and data collected by the government for identifying perpetrators of mob violence will be used as an argument to legitimize a surveillance state. Also what’s stopping a vindictive regime from misusing this power against dissenters who have anyway been dubbed ‘anti-national’ and ‘traitors’.


Related:

Over 2,000 people Brought in for violence : Delhi Minorities Panel Chief

Delhi violence: Allegations of indiscriminate arrests of Muslim men

Protest against indiscriminate arrest of hundreds of Muslims in violence affected NE Delhi
 

Is Amit Shah’s LS speech about Delhi violence a chilling sign of things to come?

Home Minister mentions planned conspiracy, blames mobs from UP, pats police’s back and says facial recognition technology being used to identify attackers

Amit Shah

More than two weeks after violence first broke out in Delhi’s North East district, Home Minister Amit Shah, who directly controls the Delhi Police, made a speech in the Parliament where he made a series of self-serving statements and claims and one chilling revelation.
 

Whose ‘conspiracy’ is it anyway?

Shah called Delhi violence a “well planned conspiracy”. This is interesting given how it was the minority community that bore an unfair brunt of the violence that clearly appears to have been targeted and carefully calibrated against them. However, it is noteworthy that the clashes broke out only after BJP leader Kapil Mishra’s indirect call to arms. It was Mishra who had issued an ultimatum to the Delhi Police to evict people protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in three days, threatening otherwise his supporters will take to the streets.

Delhi Minorities Commission chairman Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan who visited violence-affected areas on March 2, 2020, observed in his report, “We found extensive damage to Muslim houses, shops and workshops everywhere we went. At Bhajanpura, we found that Muslim-owned shops, like a travel agency and motorcycle showroom, were looted and torched while Hindu-owned shops were left untouched.” The report said, “At C-429 in gali no. 29 of Khajuri Khas, we saw the gutted Masjid Fatima where people had taken refuge in the belief that mobs will not attack a religious place.” It added, “In the same gali, there is house no. C/1/28/413 which belongs to Prem Chand, Delhi Police ISI who had let it to a Muslim family since 2007. The house was torched after the family fled the place. The rioters returned later to burn it once again.”

Is Shah accepting that it was Mishra’s men who planned and executed the mob violence? And if that is the case, why are there allegations of hundreds of Muslim men, including teenage boys being picked up, arrested or even detained without a record from areas such as Khureji Khas, Mustafabad, Chand Bagh and other minority-dominated neighbourhoods? Also, wasn’t it Shah himself who had dubbed the riots spontaneous on February 25? Moreover, if it was indeed a conspiracy, then was it intelligence failure on part of Shah’s ministry and the police that allowed the violence to break out and continue unabated for at least three whole days?


Alien invasion theory?

Many riot-affected people have repeatedly said that the mobs that attacked them were of people who did not belong to their neighbourhoods. Shah also seemed to support this ‘alien invasion theory’ and claimed that 300 people from neighbouring Uttar Pradesh had been brought in to fuel the violence. Does this mean even BJP’s blue-eyed boy next door, UP Chief Minister Adityanath didn’t see it coming? Did he too fail too fail to prevent people from his state from engaging in inter-state cross-border mob-terrorism?

Or does Shah secretly hope that the ‘invaders’ and ‘outsiders’ will conveniently be presumed to belong to a particular community and thus be conveniently used to perpetuate convenient stereotypes about the alleged perpetrators of the violence when BJP’s own men such as Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma and Kapil Mishra are the ones who misused their power, position, influence and most importantly words to demonise and vilify people of the minority community by dubbing them as ‘traitors’ who deserved to be shot?


Cops can’t do no wrong?

Shah praised the Delhi Police for swiftly bringing the violence under control. But here’s the shocker. Shah claims that the violence lasted only 36 hours, whereas ground reality is that mob violence began on February 23, 2020 and began to dissipate only on the evening of February 26… a period much longer than Shah’s 36 hours. Moreoever, as far as the role of Delhi Police goes, there have been several allegations of police complicity in the violence. There are also allegations of police raiding minority neighbourhoods to arrest and even detain without any record Muslim men and teenaged boys accusing them of participating in the riots.

The most shocking case was that of 45-year-old Usman Saifi who had spent night and day guarding a local temple in Gali number 18 of Mustafabad’s Nehru Vihar during the riots. But late on Sunday night police picked him up and took him to Dyalpur police station. Saifi has been accused of taking part in the violence, but according to his family and neighbours, it was he who diligently guarded the Hindu shrine fearing worse repercussions should any harm come to it.

A few days ago, a fact-finding report by Lawyers Against Atrocities made similar allegations of police targeting Muslim men and detaining them on baseless charges in the Khureji Khas area. The report had said, “While conducting raids in the locality, police are reported to have discharged their weapons twice at the entrance of the Jama Masjid Road. That evening, when lawyers arrived at Jagatpuri Police Station to enquire about the arrested, the police were verbally and physically abusive towards them. More arrests are reported to have occurred on the night of 26th January 2020 and then over the next two days, with police raiding homes of numerous residents and arbitrarily picking up people, including several minors, from the streets.”

But Shah’s speech in Parliament did not even acknowledge these allegations and completely glossed over them as he focused instead on virtually lionizing the role of his boys in khaki, making one wonder if there will ever be any accountability?


Mota Bhai is watching?

But Amit Shah’s greatest shocker came when he said facial recognition software was being used to identify the rioters and mobsters. Interestingly, Shah decided to give a secular spin to this Orwellian move saying, “We have received thousands of videos. We are using Face identification to find accused. It is a software so it does not differentiate on the basis of religion.”

But Shah set the cat among the pigeons when he said, “We have also fed Aadhaar and driving license data into this software, which has identified 1,100 people.” He added, “We entered Voter ID data and other information available with the government to identify people who were involved in the riots. Arrests will be made only in cases where there is hard evidence against a person.”

According to News18, Shah was referring to Advanced Facial Recognition Software (AFRC), a tool developed by INNEFU Labs, an Indian startup that works on artificial intelligence tools. This software was acquired by Delhi Police back in 2018 in an exercise that aimed to identify missing children and catch criminals involved in child trafficking and other related acts.

Founder Tarun Wig, explained in an interview with News18, “What AFRS does is detect and extract the faces out of an image. Every face is then converted to a vector of 512 values. Then, the software calculates the shortest distance between two vectors in a chosen database, and the closest matches are typically the accurate recognition of a face.”

However, facial recognition software has also drawn sharp criticism globally as many times it identifies innocent people are criminals. Privacy activists have long warned about the possible violation of privacy and misuse of Aadhaar data by the government. One wonders if this use of facial recognition software and data collected by the government for identifying perpetrators of mob violence will be used as an argument to legitimize a surveillance state. Also what’s stopping a vindictive regime from misusing this power against dissenters who have anyway been dubbed ‘anti-national’ and ‘traitors’.


Related:

Over 2,000 people Brought in for violence : Delhi Minorities Panel Chief

Delhi violence: Allegations of indiscriminate arrests of Muslim men

Protest against indiscriminate arrest of hundreds of Muslims in violence affected NE Delhi
 

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